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Sunday, January 16, 2022

The history of baseball’s revenue streams

This player-dominated league was in turn replaced by the owner-dominated National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (i.e., the modern National League). Ticket prices were standardized at 50 cents, or roughly $11.50 today. This was slashed in half when the NL merged with the rival American Association in 1891 (read: bullied them out of existence), although any lost revenue was more than accounted for by the new rules permitting teams to schedule games on Sunday and sell alcohol to fans — not to mention the immense benefit to the bottom line that a monopoly on professional baseball represented.

Ticket sales, concessions, and stadium merchandise: for most of the history of Major League Baseball, these were the main sources of revenue for baseball teams, all of which relied on attendance. That said, since the 1890s, teams have forged strong relationships with local media companies — first telegraph companies were called on to send play-by-play data across the telegraph wire, then radio stations began to broadcast games live in the 1920s (with the first World Series broadcast nationally in 1922). Everything changed, however, when television entered the scene.

The New York Yankees sold their television rights to WABD (modern-day WNYW) in 1947 for $75,000 — the modern day equivalent of $937,674.89 — setting the stage for the modern-day regional network rights that have become lucrative investments for teams today, particularly in large markets. These deals have become so lucrative that when the Yankees purchased FOX’s share of the YES Network in 2019, that share cost $3.47 billion.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 16, 2022 at 03:51 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: radio, revenues, television

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   1. DL from MN Posted: January 17, 2022 at 11:19 AM (#6061341)
No mention of TBS and WGN in the 1990s
   2. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: January 18, 2022 at 08:01 PM (#6061519)
That said, since the 1890s, teams have forged strong relationships with local media companies

In the very early days, newspaper reporters weren't even allowed in the ballpark, on the theory that if newspapers were allowed to write stories about the games, then attendance would suffer!

This would be a pattern over the years:
"You can't put baseball on the radio! Attendance will suffer!"
"You can't put baseball on TV! Attendance will suffer!"
"You can't put baseball on the internet! Attendance will suffer!"
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 18, 2022 at 11:13 PM (#6061535)
"You can't put baseball on TV! Attendance will suffer!"

In fact in the early years of television (1949-53) 14 of the then-16 teams went the anti-NFL route of televising all or most of their home games,** while televising none of their road games.

** The A's, the Indians, the Red Sox, the Nats, the Tigers, the White Sox, the Yankees, the Braves, the Cardinals, the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Giants, the Phillies and the Reds. Only the Browns and the Pirates were holdouts. Most of these teams televised all of their home games, and it wasn't until 1954 that the first teams started televising any of their road games. OTOH beginning in 1951 the NFL blacked out all home games while televising all of the road games. The NFL set new attendance records every year during the 1950's, while baseball's attendance peaked in 1948 and declined precipitously after that.
   4. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: January 19, 2022 at 07:17 AM (#6061551)
Televising road games (especially with clunky 1950s equipment) was a lot harder to do than broadcasting home games, for obvious reasons. But, yep, once people realized they could stay home in air-conditioned comfort and watch MLB on TV, it cut into big-league attendance (and pretty much destroyed the minors).
   5. BDC Posted: January 19, 2022 at 10:09 AM (#6061564)
As often noted, though, it is hard precisely to factor the dip in baseball attendance in the 1950s into the effect of televised baseball as opposed to the effect of television existing at all. Whether you're watching the Pirates or watching General Electric Theater, you're still not out at the ballgame.
   6. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 19, 2022 at 10:36 AM (#6061567)
In the very early days, newspaper reporters weren't even allowed in the ballpark, on the theory that if newspapers were allowed to write stories about the games, then attendance would suffer!

Do you have a source for this? I've read up a lot on 19th century sportswriting and have never heard of reporters being banned from the ballpark. Teams were inviting Henry Chadwick to the ballpark as early as the 1860s.
   7. DL from MN Posted: January 19, 2022 at 10:51 AM (#6061570)
The whole Activision sale yesterday made me wonder how much MLB makes off video game licensing. Some people are more familiar with the players as video game characters than they are with what they did in reality.

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